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The Time for Action Is Now

Dec. 20, 2006 — About 75 people attended the St. Croix Environmental Association's showing of the film An Inconvenient Truth at the St. Croix campus of the University of Virgin Islands earlier this month. The film sparked a discussion about what Virgin Islanders can do about Global Warming.
Bevan R. Smith Jr., director of the V.I. Energy Office, opened the discussion remarking that the film emphasized how important the mission of the Energy Office has become. He said that conservation of the limited amount of fossil fuel and Americans attempt to become independent from Middle East oil was the original goals of the Energy Office.
But now, he said, with science connecting Global Warming with the burning of fossil fuel, the message that the V.I. Energy Office message has gained a new dimension.
At the end of his remarks he noted that the Water and Power Authority was now taking part in the energy-efficiency fight by giving out energy-efficient light bulbs.
The scene that night showed why we dont need to give up hope and condemn our children to a world of weather chaos.
The community was represented, the government was represented and even the utility is taking part in the fight that all sane people now know must be fought.
The facts, according to the New York Times are:
— The average surface temperature of Earth has increased more than 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1900
— The rate of warming has been nearly three times the century-long average since 1970.
— Almost all experts studying the recent climate history of the earth agree that human activities, mainly the release of heat-trapping gases from smokestacks, tailpipes, and burning forests, are probably the dominant force driving the trend.
— Climate experts say that without big curbs in greenhouse gas emissions, the 21st century could see temperatures rise 3 to 8 degrees, weather patterns sharply shift, ice sheets shrink and seas rise several feet.
And there is more news coming in. It appears that 2006 is going to be one of the warmest years on record. Habitats for many animals are shrinking. The polar bear has given a face to this calamity, but the white bear is not the only species being affected. Everything from mountain goats to armadillos are being affected (See this Washington Post article).
SEA members expressed interest in keeping the discussion open by offering future events. This film, although it gained most of the attention, was the fourth shown in series that SEA began in October.
The V.I. Energy Office is investigating how to get copies of An Inconvenient Truth, along with study guides to schools in the Virgin Islands.
Cassandra Dunn, spokesperson for WAPA, has said that the utility has bought a copy of the film and plans to hold showings for its employees.
These are good steps but every one of us needs to think about how we are treating the Earth and its atmosphere. One audience member at the UVI showing said because of its geographic location and population, the Virgin Islands could have a significant impact on the solution. He said the sun and wind were abundant resources in the Virgin Islands, and if they are successfully used, many people traveling through the islands could spread the word worldwide. He might be right.
WAPA at a recent retreat discussed many methods for weaning itself away from oil. Executive Director Alberto Bruno-Vega cited global warming as a grave concern. WAPAs efforts are admirable. However, some of the methods, like ocean thermal energy conversion, are in the experimental stage and not commercially proven. The idea of a pet coke and coal plant does not address the issues of pollution and the probability of carbon taxes.
There are concrete steps that can be taken immediately.
The Virgin Islands has about a dozen residents eager to sell solar power to WAPA. Some of those systems have already gone through extensive inspections. They were also featured in the U.S. Department of Energys most recent newsletter. (See "Virgin Islands Establishes PV System Quality Program").
WAPA, the Energy Office, and the PSC should continue to focus on a policy that will allow those residents to get on line immediately. This policy is expected to be finalized next month.
No one expects residential solar power systems to answer all the Virgin Islands' energy problems, but they can start to have an impact right now.
When these systems get on line, other residents, after seeing how easily it works, will be encouraged to have their own systems installed.
No one questions that solar power is clean power. Stateside estimates are also that solar power can be produced at a fraction of the price WAPA is charging.
We need to act and act now, for the sake of our children.
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